Subjects: Visit to La Trobe; the Prime Minister’s divisive Voice, Treaty, Truth proposal; nuclear power; Chris Bowen’s incompetence as a Minister.
Welcome everyone to Beaconsfield, which is part of La Trobe, and it’s great to have Peter Dutton here, the Opposition Leader.
We had a multicultural forum this morning which went really well; great engagement, we had a great turnout and people are very keen to hear from Peter Dutton and also express their support to him. The amazing amount of gifts he got – especially from the Afghan community for his role previously as a Defence Minister – but other communities too.
Also too, can I make the point; La Trobe – and one thing which has really hurt us with the Albanese Government – it’s not only the cost of living, and high interest rates here in La Trobe, and right across the country – this is one of the fastest growing growth corridors in the country – we’ve seen the Labor Party cancel Wellington Road, which when Bill Shorten was Opposition Leader, he promised as an election commitment. Catherine King has scrapped that funding. The Sealing the Hills program is being scrapped. Now this 90 day infrastructure bill has sadly seen impact on both Racecourse Road, McGregor Road caught up with that, and Clyde Road.
This is putting great stress onto my local community and also Casey emergency Hospital for the children’s department hasn’t started – both at the state level Labor and the federal level need to get these programs – when it comes to Casey Hospital, up and running. Need work the start and also stop this review and allow these major infrastructure projects to go ahead.
But great for us to have Peter Dutton here today, and thank you very much, Peter, for again being a great friend for La Trobe and the multicultural communities.
Jason, thank you very much mate. I really appreciate the invitation to be here today.
I want to say thank you to all of the community leaders that we met today from many multicultural communities. A lot of discussion in there about cost of living pressures. Every Australian family – regardless of their background – is really finding it hard to pay Labor’s increased energy costs, to pay for Labor’s increased mortgage rates, and it doesn’t just stop there. It’s when you go to the supermarket, when you fill up your car at the bowser, your insurance bill under Labor has gone through the roof. There are very few Australians who could say that they’re better off today than they were before Labor was elected in May of last year.
So, we’ve got a lot of work as a country to do and we need to make sure that we treat everybody equally, and the multicultural communities were very cognisant of that this morning. They’re concerned that the Prime Minister’s Voice proposal is dividing people, dividing Australians, depending on when they came to Australia and that is unacceptable in our country. Every Australian is equal, and at the Voice Referendum – when we approach that time on October 14 – I think there are a lot of multicultural communities – certainly the ones that we’ve spoken to today – who have taken a decision to either vote ‘no’ or are thinking very seriously about voting ‘no’ because they understand the Prime Minister just hasn’t provided the evidence to them and hasn’t given the detail that they are requesting. So, I think that is of great concern.
I think the other point too is, as number of people pointed out today, the Prime Minister’s been obsessed with the Voice over the course of the last 18 months or so. Most Australians are obsessed with how they’re going to pay the next bill, and they see a Prime Minister that’s distracted. There are two budgets that have been delivered now and every economic decision made by the government has made it harder for Australians to balance their budgets, for small businesses to keep people employed, the costs of input going into those businesses continues to go up, which means the prices of a coffee or other goods at a restaurant that you might visit, they continue to go up and that’s what fuels inflation ultimately.
So, I think there’s a lot of concern rightly within the community about the direction that our country is heading in under this Prime Minister, and the fact that he’s just all talk and no action. I think that’s a very significant point that people are making increasingly as we move around the country.
I’m very happy to take any questions.
Do you remain committed to a second Referendum on recognition only as a policy?
Well, the Liberal Party has had as its policy, which I think is the right and respectful policy, to recognise Indigenous Australians. I don’t think people are voting ‘no’ on the 14th of October because they are against helping Indigenous Australians – quite the opposite. I don’t think they’re against recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, but they are against the Voice, and the trouble is that the Prime Minister has masked the Voice with recognition to try and give it some moral cover because he wouldn’t put two questions.
So, do I think there should be recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution? Yes, I do. And it’s the policy that we’ve had long standing. I think it’s respectful and I can promise you that as Prime Minister I won’t be prioritising treaties with billions of dollars going to lawyers, instead of helping those communities in a practical way.
I want to see money spent on practical outcomes for Indigenous kids in remote and regional areas. I don’t want to see billions of dollars spent on treaties where lawyers will line their pockets and treaties that are negotiated for 20 or 30 years. It’s completely unacceptable.
How can that be your policy when your Indigenous Affairs Minister doesn’t support it?
Well, I’ve been very clear in relation to the policy that we took to the last election. It’s the policy that we’ll take to the next election. I wish that the question now was, ‘do support recognising Indigenous Australians in the Constitution?’. I wish that were the question now.
The Prime Minister has taken a decision to divide this country, and on October 14 he’s going to split the country straight down the middle and I think he has a lot to answer for. This train wreck of a campaign that the Prime Minister’s presiding over has seen 60-40 per cent support for the Voice, drop to 40-60 against, and that’s because he won’t give the detail to the Australian public, and I think the Prime Minister is losing respect right across the community and I think that’s going to increasingly be the case in the run up to October 14.
Do you endorse the views your Indigenous Affairs Minister Jacinta Price aired last week at the Press Club? That colonisation has no ongoing negative impact on Indigenous Australians?
I made comments on that on Friday.
Leading campaigner Warren Mundine said defeating the Referendum would make treaties between governments and First Nations more likely, do you share that view?
Well, I’ve been very clear that a government I lead will not enter into billions of dollars worth of treaty negotiations that will just see rich lawyers in Sydney and Melbourne get richer.
I want money spent in communities like Alice Springs, like Laverton, like Leonora, Katherine, I want practical outcomes for those Indigenous kids on the ground. I don’t want to see another layer of bureaucracy, which is what the Prime Minister is promoting, and I don’t want to see billions of dollars of taxpayers money, particularly when the economy is tightening.
We’ve got a lot of debt as a country and a lot of Australians are hurting with their cost of living pressures, and now the Prime Minister’s talking about treaties after the Voice which will go on for between 20 and 30 years, cost billions of dollars, with lawyers sitting around tables in flash offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and the situation will only get worse for those Indigenous Australians in need of support.
Climate Minister Chris Bowen says replacing coal fired power stations with nuclear would cost $387 billion. Do you think this is true?
Well look, I just think Chris Bowen, frankly, is unhinged on all of this at the moment. Chris Bowen did numbers before the election that he promised Australians on 97 occasions that he would bring power prices down by $275. I mean has anyone’s power bill gone down by $275 dollars under Chris Bowen? No. They’ve gone up dramatically the other way – a 16 per cent increase year-on-year, and the prices will only continue to go higher under Labor because he’s now proposing rolling out 28,000 kilometres of poles and wires, at the cost of $100 billion plus, and analysts talk about Chris Bowen’s plan costing between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion.
Now, if you look at what’s happening in Canada (Ontario), where 60 per cent of their energy source comes from nuclear, they pay half the electricity price that we do here. There are 50 countries in the world, either using or looking to use nuclear technologies – the latest nuclear technologies – which are zero emissions. So why would those countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Canada, why would those countries see the latest nuclear technology as a viable way and a credible way to get to net zero by 2050, but Chris Bowen doesn’t? I mean Chris Bowen has got his head in the sand when it comes to nuclear power, and what he’s worried about is the internal dynamic within the Labor Party, he’s not worried about the national interest.
I want to see power prices come down in our country. I don’t want to see them continue to go up every month, every quarter, under Labor. So, I don’t believe that Chris Bowen has a credible path to get to net zero by 2050 without the use of latest technology nuclear. It’s zero emissions, it firms up renewables, and frankly, I just don’t think you could take Chris Bowen, a bloke who used to be the Assistant Treasurer in the Rudd-Gillard years, and brought you GroceryWatch and FuelWatch and ‘Cash for Clunkers’ – the bloke was a disaster when he was last a Minister in government – and he’s just got worse under Mr Albanese.
So I wouldn’t take anything he says as credible, and I think he’s been, frankly, I think he’s been embarrassed by the attempt today to discredit nuclear. I’ve not seen somebody more incompetent than Chris Bowen in recent years and to trot out the figures that he has today – he’s proposing that they install 22,000 solar panels a day, and 40 wind turbines a month, plus 28,000 kilometres worth of new poles and wires – everything else that goes into that mix costs up to $1.5 trillion. So I’m hardly going to take an economics lecture from Chris Bowen.
If you are sceptical of the government figures released today, what modelling do you have that suggest nuclear power will be cost effective?
Well, I say look to the example of other comparable countries and economies. If Canada (Ontario) can have a power price that’s half our power price by using 60 per cent nuclear to firm up renewables, why can’t it work here? If the United States can do the same, if the United Kingdom and France can do the same, why can’t it happen here? It’s not the technology that’s not working, it’s Chris Bowen.
Chris Bowen’s on this renewables only, you know, sort of zealots path, and as the regulator warns, under Chris Bowen the lights are likely to go out. If you get a disruption in power in our country and you continue to get increased prices under Labor’s failed energy policy, those manufacturers will just shift offshore. Let’s be very clear about it. They’ll take the jobs, they’ll take the investment and they’ll just re-import that product. There’ll be higher emissions, there’ll be higher costs for Australians and there’ll be less jobs.
So Mr Bowen’s plan has no credibility, and I believe very strongly that we should look to the example of other countries, and at least be prepared to have an intellectual argument and a factually based argument in relation to nuclear, as opposed to the childlike behaviour of Chris Bowen.
What is the cost of not investing in nuclear?
Well again, I think this is a very important point; the regulator is saying that under Chris Bowen’s energy plan, your prices are going to continue to go up and there will be a disruption to power supply.
Peter Malinauskas, the Premier in South Australia, the Labor Premier in South Australia supports nuclear. He understands that South Australia in particular has an acute need to be able to firm up. You just can’t turn off the old technology and wish that the battery was going to store power. The latest battery installed in South Australia by AGL, at the cost of almost $200 million, lasts for one hour. I want it to be different. I’d love to say that last for one week or one month, it doesn’t, and until the technology improves, you’ve got to use the existing technologies, and the most reliable, the least cost firming energy is nuclear. That’s been proven.
If you look at Bill Gates’ work, he and many others who have done a lot of work in this space are embracing it, and frankly, it’s why a lot of young Australians support nuclear energy, because they’re well read, they’re passionate about reducing emissions, they’ve looked what’s happened and is happening in other parts of the world, and it’s that embrace of nuclear technology – the latest zero emissions technology – that’s going to be the credible pathway to reducing emissions.
Thank you very much.